2011 49ers Grades: Ian Williams

This represents our last non-grade player. 49ers nose tackle Ian Williams was active for one game this past season, but it really was not enough to justify attempting to grade the rookie. Nonetheless, there is plenty to discuss surrounding Williams given the 49ers potential need for a long term solution at nose tackle.

The 49ers signed Williams as an undrafted free agent this past summer when he was one of the more sought after free agents. He put together a very solid training camp and a strong showing in the preseason was enough to earn him a spot on the 49ers 53-man roster. He was the third string nose tackle behind Isaac Sopoaga and Ricky Jean-Francois.

The 49ers let Aubrayo Franklin walk this past year, and that raised some question marks as they decided to move Sopoaga over to nose tackl and Ray McDonald in at starting defensive end. Most concerns were extinguished as Sopoaga handled the position quite well. He missed one game with a staph infection, but RJF filled in well for him.

Although Sopoaga is now 30 and RJF is a free agent after this coming season, they would seem to be fairly locked in as the top two options at nose tackle. Is there much of an opportunity for Williams to move past either at this point? He gets practice reps and will get plenty of opportunities in 2012 training camp and the preseason, but his future might really be more of a "two years from now" kind of deal.

The 49ers defensive line as a whole features strong starters, a very solid backup in RJF, and then three developmental guys in Williams, Will Tukuafu and Demarcus Dobbs. All three have significant potential, but as developmental guys, there is a significant hill to climb. In looking at the three of them, what do you think the 49ers can hope for in 2012 and beyond? Be happy with just one hitting, or a bit more of an optimistic approach?

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